How to turn off the water to your house (and stop emergency leaks)

September 20, 2023

Reading time: 8 minutes

It’s likely you’re reading this because you urgently need to stop a leak in your home or we’ve directed you to this page for further support after contacting us. If that’s the case then the first thing you need to do is find the stopcock (or stop valve) and turn if off using the instructions below. For safety reasons, we advise turning off the electricity to your home as well.

If you do find yourself with a water leak, try not to panic, yes you made need repair work but often this is much less extensive than you’d imagine.

If you’re worried that the leak was particularly extensive you can ask a professional to carry out a water damage report. This will highlight any potential safety risks or internal structural issues.

Find out how to stop the leak quickly and what to do next in the guide below. We cover everything you need to do from finding your stopcock to contacting your insurance company.

Where is my stopcock?

The water to any house is controlled by a valve called a stop cock (pictured).

This is usually located near the internal entrance of a property, but unfortunately there is no set place to find them.

Typical places to look would be near the front door, under the stairs, under the kitchen sink, in a storage cupboard or in the bathroom. They would normally be located on the ground floor, but again there is no set law.

Occasionally we come across stopcocks which are located under the floors, these are usually inaccessible and therefore as good as useless in an emergency. If you find yourself unable to locate an internal stopcock, then the other option is to turn off the water from outside the property (see details below).

Internal, easily accessible stopcocks are extremely useful in the event of a leak so if you suspect that yours is in some way out of reach, then one can be fitted onto your existing incoming watermain in a convenient location. This can be easily done by a plumber, as long as the water can be shut off externally.

External stopcock

If you can’t find the internal stopcock then you should have an external one. This is located in the pavement outside your house. You will need to lift a cover to access it. (pictured)

The newer types have a circular lid marked up for water and sometimes also contain your water meter. These are easily uncovered with a screwdriver and should contain a stopcock key within the recess, which you can use to turn the valve.

Most valves are a simple quarter turn to turn off. If you have a water meter, you can use this to check the water is off as there is a dial which will stop turning once the flow has stopped.

Tip: You’ll know the water to home is off because the dial will stop turning. Sometimes these valves have been known to let by a little (not shut off fully).

The older types can be found under rectangular metal flaps where you can find a tap head to turn. Depending on the valve location you may need a tool to access it, if is lower in the ground. These are also called stopcock keys and allow the turning of a low level valve. They are easy to buy from places like Toolstation or Screwfix and could be a useful investment should you require one to reach your external stopcock. Do ask your retailer for advice on which one to buy as there are different types; square head, crutch, combination, double-ended, multi-purpose and universal.

Where is the stopcock in my flat?

Stopcocks in flats can be found in the same locations as a house, near entrances, under kitchen sinks etc.

If you are in a flat and can’t find the individual stopcock for your flat and need to use the external stop cock you will be shutting off the water for the whole house or building so don’t forget to let your neighbours know.

Stopcock turned off but water still running

Your stopcock is broken:

Unfortunately a stopcock is a mechanical device and prone to defects. Sometimes they don’t shut off fully, or even won’t turn at all if not used for some time.

Should you find yourself in such a situation, we recommend calling in a professional plumber, it is not a good idea to use excessive force just in case you cause even further damage.

In this instance, try to reduce damage by catching and soaking up as much water as possible until help arrives.

Tip: Opening all the taps in your home will divert some of the flow, so there is less water reaching the leak

You have an unconventional heating system:

Water leaks that occur in properties with an unconventional style heating system (i.e. not a combi boiler), can also be stopped by locating and turning off water valves.

Systems which use water storage tanks to feed your heating and hot water, hold a great amount of water and can produce leaks from the connected pipework.

If you have such a system, it is a good idea to get to know where your tanks, cylinder and valves are, as this could help water damage from a leak. Again opening taps will help to empty these tanks once the main is shut off.

Other reasons:

On other occasions, water damage may well be coming from external sources. Flooding, Roofing damage or damage to the external render of a building can also cause leaks or evidence of damp, so if this is something you suspect then it’s best to get a professional in to inspect and advise.

You’ve stopped the leak, now what do you do?

Once the leak has been stopped, your next step will be to repair the leak and assess the damage.

Claiming insurance

If you are considering claiming on home insurance, the more photo evidence you have of the leak and the damage the better.

Most insurance companies, will require an assessment of the damage and repairs required by a professional company who can provide expert diagnosis and estimates for restoration.

Electrical saftey

If the leak has been extensive, it is advisable to get an electrician in to check things over prior to switching on your electric again. Water is a very good conductor of electricity and can cause harm, or even cause further damage to your circuits if switched on too early.


How you proceed with restoration depends on what type of leak you have a where it is located.

The most simple leak is one on the ground floor at an accessible pipe with easy shut off capabilities.

Unfortunately this is rarely the case, pipes are located in floors, ceiling and walls, and while the leak many be a quick and easy fix, locating, accessing and making good after may be where the bulk of the expense goes. Floors may need to be lifted, ceilings cut into, or you may need some exploratory work done to find the source of the leak.

Here at Water Delight we offer a full range of services to help you find and fix your leak, and put your home back together after.

We can produce the documents you need for your insurance companies and cover all aspects of repair work. Hopefully though, you’ll never need us for this.